My 1st Natural Water Birth Story

With my estimated due date only a week and a half away now, birth is consuming my mind. I had dinner a couple of  weeks ago with a lovely new friend in my centering group from the birth center and she noted that I don’t seem traumatized by my natural birth experience with my first and overall seem pleased with it. And…she’s right. Was it perfect and exactly as I planned? Not a bit! But, it was beautiful even in the hard moments and I’ve never actually taken the time to write it down. So here it is, my contribution to the internet birth story library.
After 2 weeks of prodromal labor and contractions that were not doing a dang thing for me and 9 months straight of vomiting thanks to Hyperemesis Gravidarum, to say I was ready for the real thing to happen is the understatement of the century. Then something magical happened. At just past 39 weeks, my water broke while waiting in line at Hopdoddy, this crazy popular burger place in Austin that you have to wait for nearly an hour to get to order. I should have known something was up considering how hungry I was and not nauseated. We think the final straw was me chasing my mom around her hotel room the night before trying to get her to touch my belly button because she was grossed out by my pregnant belly. You know, normal family stuff 😃
The best part of it all was I wasn’t 100% sure my water broke since I couldn’t see below my belly so will took a picture with his phone to show me. Im sure everyone else in line was very amused. We then called the birthing center and they told us to just take it easy and wait for things to pick up, go get any snacks we wanted for labor ready, and if things didn’t pick up by midnight to come in so they could do a non stress test. So we headed home to get me cleaned up, did a little shopping at whole foods (with my water leaking the whole time, they seem to forget to tell you that it doesn’t stop once it starts!) and then settled in for what was going to be an almost 9 hour wait till midnight. Will had a migraine so he went and took a nap and I sat on a puppy pad on the couch and watched a documentary on Happiness and ate the burger I made him go get for me after we lost our place in line. Hahaha looking back I was oddly calm about the whole deal.

*sidenote, I was supposed to be a bridesmaid in one of my best friends wedding the day my water broke. Thankfully we had the sense to not have me in it haha but she did send me a lovely brooch to wear as an honorary bridesmaid and it arrived in the mail the day my water broke! 😃

At 11:30 pm we headed to the birthing center since I had no change in contractions and was really doing just fine. My friend Alexis who had agreed to be our doula and help out was already on her way from Houston and my mom had come in town the night before so we all just agreed to meet at the birthing center thinking things would surely be happening soon!

After about an hour of non stress test and a dose of humor for our midwives with me freaking out about Austin being on the list of places North Korea was planning to bomb (thanks mom and Alexis for talking about this in waiting room haha) we were sent home to go sleep and come back when the contractions woke me from sleep.

I woke up at 9 am the next morning feeling fine. Leak… but fine. I got ready and let everyone else sleep a little more and then called the midwife and she said, “You need to come right now, I can’t believe you aren’t already here! ” I had no clue there was a limit because I guess they really thought active labor would start in the night.

We arrived there and immediately they had me trying black and blue cohosh herbs to get things going (which made me throw up) and the hospital grade breast pump. Nada. Nothing changed. Then they had me go hiking on the nature trail behind the center and do lunges up and down the stairs. Still nothing. I mean, I was having contractions they just weren’t painful and were more than 5 minutes apart and I was chipper as could be! Finally, since I was hours past the 24 hour window of when my water broke they said my option was to try castor oil and then next, we would have to head to the hospital if that did not work. They were not doing cervical checks so there was not a risk for infection but in Texas they cannot keep me at the birthing center with my water broken past a certain window without risking their ability to practice.  I truly think my fear of birth was stalling my labor and then my fear of ending up in the hospital is what ultimately caused my labor to pick up because that was not where I wanted to end up. You bet I took the castor oil when she mentioned the hospital. They mixed it into a milkshake and down the hatch it went. Usually it kicks in in a matter of a couple of hours max but it took almost 6 hours for it take effect on me. During that time we continued with the lunges and walking outside and bouncing on the yoga ball and really doing everything we could. I had hoped to be in the tub but they were worried it would slow me down even more. FINALLY I was laying on my side in the bed and felt what I can only describe as a pop, the pop being her shifting off of a bone in my pelvis and engaging and then the castor oil kicked in. It was not awesome. I do not recommend it ever to anyone ever. Castor oil causes sickness (from both directions) and intestinal pain that could rival any natural birth pain. But, it got her moved into the position she needed to be for labor to kick in. I went from nothing to transition in a matter of minutes.


I crawled off the bathroom toilet into a chair in the room and tried to channel my hypnobirthing mantras and my husband and friend gently stroked my arms and forced me to drink water since I was now dehydrated and still vomiting. They said it looked like I checked out of my body and I just let it all happen. I actually remember it as a peaceful time despite the fact that I was going through intense contractions one on top of the other. At some point I knew it was time to get into the water getting from the chair to the tub was the hardest part of the whole day. Once I was in, I was so happy, still coping with contractions but I felt like I was where I wanted to be. My belly wouldn’t submerge though so I had Will keep covering it with a wet towel because apparently that was very important to me.

It wasn’t long that I was in the tub that I started feeling my body begin to push. I had hit that point of primal and I sounded like it. Another woman had arrived at the birthing center right at this time so my midwife was in between she and I and I began to panic. Alexis says she was pushing the call button over and over again because she was scared I was going to have the baby right then and there. I whistled like they taught me to try and keep my body relaxed and not tensing up because at my last check I was only at 9cm dilated. The next time she came and checked on me I told her she had two minutes to make it back in because I was having this baby right now. If I remember correctly when she came back I was already pushing and she held back the very last bit of cervix for me and I followed the breathe the baby down method I was taught and in less the 30 min (somewhere around there) her head was out. It honest to god was scary, but not nearly as painful as I expected, the fear of it was much worse. Then her shoulder was stuck and her cord was around her neck so they had me quickly stand up and the midwife maneuvered her out and unwrapped the cord and that was it!

Leona Florence Swain was born standing up in a birthing tub at 4:54 am. 7lbs 8oz and 21.5 inches long and beautiful. Loudin Wainright’s “Daughter” and Can Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” we’re playing in the last moments that we were welcoming her into the world and it was perfect.


They drained and filled the tub while I was standing and it was wonderful to sit back down with Leona skin to skin and wait to deliver the placenta. We let the cord pulse till it stopped then they collected the cord blood for banking and we then cut the cord and moved me the bed where I finally delivered the placenta after some not so fun contractions.

The rest is just a blur of sweet baby cuddles and eating my favorite sandwich, learning to nurse and a lovely little sleep at the center before heading home about 8 hours later where we had a 1st birthday party with friends and family. I felt great, walked up stairs within 10 hours of delivering leona. Could not be happier with my drug free birth! Getting amped for the next one as I type this out!

Did any of you attempt natural birth? I’d love to hear your stories!


Mama Chels